Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Georgian Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Georgian Verse.  1909.
The Complaint of Nature
By Michael Bruce (1746–1767)
FEW are thy days and full of woe,
  O man of woman born!
Thy doom is written, dust thou art,
  And shalt to dust return.
Determined are the days that fly        5
  Successive o’er thy head;
The numbered hour is on the wing,
  That lays thee with the dead.
Alas! the little day of life
  Is shorter than a span;        10
Yet black with thousand hidden ills
  To miserable man.
Gay is thy morning, flattering Hope
  Thy sprightly step attends;
But soon the tempest howls behind,        15
  And the dark night descends.
Before its splendid hour the cloud
  Comes o’er the beam of light;
A pilgrim in a weary land,
  Man tarries but a night.        20
Behold, sad emblem of thy state,
  The flowers that paint the field,
Or trees that crown the mountain’s brow,
  And boughs and blossoms yield.
When the chill blast of winter blows,        25
  Away the summer flies,
The flowers resign their sunny robes,
  And all their beauty dies.
Nipt by the year the forest fades,
  And, shaking to the wind,        30
The leaves toss to and fro, and streak
  The wilderness behind.
The winter past, reviving flowers
  Anew shall paint the plain;
The woods shall hear the voice of Spring,        35
  And flourish green again.
But man departs this earthly scene,
  Ah! never to return:
No second spring shall e’er revive
  The ashes of the urn.        40
Th’ inexorable doors of death
  What hand can e’er unfold?
Who, from the cerements of the tomb
  Can raise the human mould?
The mighty flood that rolls along        45
  Its torrents to the main,
The waters lost can ne’er recall
  From that abyss again.
The days, the years, the ages, dark
  Descending down to night,        50
Can never, never be redeemed
  Back to the gates of light.
So man departs the living scene
  To night’s perpetual gloom;
The voice of morning ne’er shall break        55
  The slumbers of the tomb.
Where are our fathers? whither gone
  The mighty men of old?
The patriarchs, prophets, princes, kings,
  In sacred books enrolled?        60
Gone to the resting-place of man,
  The everlasting home,
Where ages past have gone before,
  Where future ages come.
Thus Nature poured the wail of woe,        65
  And urged her earnest cry;
Her voice in agony extreme
  Ascended to the sky.
Th’ Almighty heard; then from his throne
  In majesty he rose,        70
And from the heaven, that opened wide,
  His voice in mercy flows.
When mortal man resigns his breath,
  And falls, a clod of clay,
The soul immortal wings its flight        75
  To never-setting day.
Prepared of old for wicked men
  The bed of torment lies;
The just shall enter into bliss
  Immortal in the skies.        80

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